Saturday, June 30, 2012

Safari Animals!

After breakfast in the lodge we all met at 8:00 for the Safari Trip. Ruaha National Park was a short trip down the road. We no sooner entered the park when we were seeing elephants feeding at the side of the road. That was the beginning of a full day of almost non-stop wildlife viewing. Alex, our driver from yesterday, was our guide today. He made sure we saw elephants, giraffs, zebras, hippos, crocs, a cheatah family, a leopard, a pack of lions & many, many more animals. The highlight was a showdown with an elephant blocking our way on the road. I think that is the closest anyone of us ever wants to be to an angry wild elephant, and we were very close.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Work, Then Off for the Weekend

We woke at our regular time to meet at 7:00 a.m. for breakfast and our daily meeting with Edward. Some work assignments had changed and Melissa and I learned we would be joining Elizabeth and Stephen on the masonry crew. We spent the morning mixing concrete and coating the walls of a new classroom building. Very hard work but I think Melissa and I did well under the tutelage of our good friend Moses.

Lunch was chicken and chips and then we all prepared for the trip back to Iringa Town and then on to Ruaha Hilltop Lodge for a weekend break and safari.

Steve, Sue, Kassidy, Elizabeth, Melissa, and I joined Alex our driver at 1:00 and said goodby to Stephen and Sonja who were staying in Pommern for the weekend.

We stopped in Iringa Town for an hr. of Internet and left for our vacation destination. The trip had a few hiccups & stressful moments before we got out of Iringa Town.First there was a short 10 minute backtrack to the Internet cafe to rescue a misplaced camera. (Thank goodness the kind staff there was holding it.), and then our Land Rover experienced mechanical difficulties and we had to stop at a repair shop on a back road in town for a little over an hour while Alex & the mechanic repaired it. Once out of town it was a smooth trip where we passed many small villages and people, including many Maasai who are always great to see. I think we would all like to learn more about these fascinating people who we've seen everywhere we've been.

We arrived at Ruaha Lodge at 6:30 to a very warm welcome and we were all thrilled to see the Lodge, our accommodations and particularly the view.

At dinner that night we briefly met our Lodge companions who were a group of young medical students from England & Ireland on break from working in Iringa and German couple on holiday. We were served a delicious dinner and we all retired to enjoy a good night sleep with a cool mountain breeze blowing through the camp.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Hi Ho, It's Off To Work We Go

Mama Tony gave us a new  treat for breakfast, dengu, a fritter made of small seeds. Edward joined us and initiated a discussion of the importance of the triangle of IQ, health, and hunger. We each contributed thoughts on these topics, recognizing the role each area plays in the lives of Tanzanians and in the contributions Global Volunteers. Then is was Hi ho Hi ho as off to work we go as seven of us headed top the secondary school for diverse activities and one to the clinic. At lunchtime we reported on accomplishments, frustrations, and joys. We talked while enjoying Mama Tony's Italian lunch - pizza and spaghetti. It was a day with sun and clouds and breeze. Sometimes it was warmer outside than inside. In the afternoon we explored the market - vendors selling a big variety of goods (many w/familiar brands): clothes, shoes, dishes, radios, doughnuts, vegetables. There were food stalls with bowls of something hot. In true market style people encouraged us to look at and to buy their wares. Edward and Mohamed had encouraged us to bargain, but we didn't try. The one purchase was made with Edward's help. Then it was time for walks, conversations, and reading. (p.s. on the market - Edward told us that many vendors come a long distance. We had noticed that there didn't seem to be a display of local products.) As it grew cooler, we were happy to have a fire again. Mama Tony added to our memories of winter evenings with a big bowl of popcorn. Edward asked each of us for comments on the day's work. Tomorrow there will be a couple of switches; the rest of us will finish the week in the same place. Edward said that it would be time for us to start sharing our ideas and suggestions with our Tanzanian colleagues; but we need to be sensitive to differences in approaches to work.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

1st Day of Work

We started off the day with a pancake type thing, banana, and toast. We had a brief morning discussion and then headed off to work. After the long morning of work, we met at the meeting/lunch table for both a meeting and lunch. :) Everyone shared their stories of their work while we ate a tortilla thingy, noodles, meat, and sauce. Mangos were our dessert. (Note to self: Those were the best mangos I have ever had!) Once everyone was done, we chilled outside till we heard the bell ring. [ed. note  We were invited to go to the cemetery for the interment after a funeral.] While some walked one way, others walked a little too far.:) Once there, women and men were separated, and sat on the cement around the graves. While the sun beated down, and our appreciation for every cloud and breeze, we watched and listened to the beautiful melodies of voices. When the service was done we strolled on back to the Mission House. Unless you wanted some "juice or cola" then you went to the pub.  Everyone did their own thing until about 6:25ish. Then a lot of us grabbed a cup of joe and sat by the fire. Chit-chattin like usual! Later we had dinner of rice, beans, greens, citrus fruit, and some fishy soup stuff. We shared stories and had heated conversations like usual. Then off to bed. Which is somewhere around 10, because it's African time.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


We began the day with a nourishing breakfast of oatmeal, eggs and toast & the reading of the journal/quote.

Edward led us in setting goals for our time in Pommern. Common themes emerged as wishes were stated & posted on the walls. One was to learn about the culture; another is about being of service - including outside work, working in the clinic & teaching. Another theme was connecting with people.

Next we identified qualities & behaviors we hoped the team would embody. A theme was about exercising a positive attitude, another was taking responsibility for our shared space. Another was respecting individual wants & needs.

We next spent time walking around the village, visiting the school where we spoke with Asst Headmaster Haran about the history (72 to 850 in 35 years). Haran answered many questions. We learned the school is on holiday the first 2 weeks we are here & so our work projects will be working on a new kitchen & class rooms.

Our next stop was the primary school where we learned about the handwashing project & especially about the huge water project recently completed that has water spigots sprouting all over town! The clinic was next where we saw how much they are trying to with very little.

In the afternoon Mohamed coached us on our Swahili & He He local language. He was very patient with our efforts to pronounce & spell our new language.

At 4 p.m. we headed out to the town stores and met many proprietors. We also met the mayor and district leader who welcomed us.

Meanwhile, back at the Mission House (our home) the toilets were repaired and we were pleased to have time to relax & arrange for hot water for showers for the morrow.

All in all a very full and informative day. Tomorrow the labor begins. Today has set the context for our service.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Settling In

After our night's rest at the Lutheran compound we met for breakfast for our first African Dunkin Donut as well as French toast. We were welcomed at the ELCT Diocesan Center and the long history of Global Volunteer's relationship with the Diocese was recalled for us as well as what deeply rooted challenges remain for Tanzania.

After arranging a weekend safari and Internet use we began the journey over rugged terrain and equally rugged roads to reach Pommern in the early afternoon. We met our wonderful cook Mama Tony and had our first meal.

We chose our rooms, settled in, went for walks and began our acclimation to the Mission House a 100+ year old structure which in itself is a miracle.

After dinner we enjoyed a "campfire" experience and began to deepen our relationships. Plumbing problems developed, which were mopped up by Moses our lodge attendant and are able to be solved tomorrow. Also tomorrow, we begin a long orientation process to prepare us for our work with the local citizens of Pommern.

We have been blessed to be with a fabulous mix of backgrounds, ages, and experiences which will, I feel, blend into a memorable experience for all.

We await tomorrow!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

A Bumpy Ride

7 a.m. breakfast in the dining room near reception so we can be on the road by 7:30 a.m. We only left 15 minutes late - which is practically early by local standards. :)

The day was to be a long drive - approx. 500 km from Dar es Salaam to Iringa, which coud take anywhere from 8-11 hours depending on traffic. Today is Sunday, so luckily traffic for the most part is very light. The only trouble we faced was in the mountains, when we were stuck behind a queue of trucks waiting to pass an overturned vehicle.

The journey was very bumpy - lots of dancing in the bus as we went over each speed hump. Mohamed saw most bumps and slowed, but there were a few that surprised us.

We stopped in Morogoro for lunch, which was a nice buffet of rices, meats and vegetables, as well as a chance to stretch our legs.

Then we saw plenty of animals - impalas, monkeys, baboons, giraffes, zebras and many others.

The last 50 kms were the toughest - we were all tired and looking forward to the end of the journey, as well as some dinner and a cheeky kilimanjaro!

Another lovely meal of rices, meat and vegetables, followed by instructions for the next day.

We also had the opportunity to meet Pastor Sagga who welcomed us to the area and talked passionately about the water project which was completed late last year. We are looking forward to being able to contribute some to Pommern and cannot wait to get there tomorrow.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Welcome to Tanzania

Upon checking into The Slipway Hotel, I met a man who welcomed me to Tanzania. It was Edward, the country leader for Global Volunteers. He must have seen the big yellow Global Volunteers tag on my luggage. What a warm welcome from the start.

At 6 p.m. we all met for introductions and the dinner. We were introduced to Mohamed, the driver and second in charge, and to the 8 volunteers on the trip - Steve, Sue, Kassidy, Stephen, Greg, Melissa, Elizabeth & Sonja. Again we were welcomed. We learnt a little about each other, asked as to why we decided to serve with Global Volunteers. Told that we are going to serve where we are invited and work  side by side under the direction of the local people.  Then we enjoyed dinner at the Waterfront restaurant.

Then came the rules - drink bottled water, don't eat street food, keep valuables in our possession and learn some key words to help us during our time here. Edward has shown himself already to be a grateful host, looking to ensure we have a safe and enjoyable experience here.

After dinner, it was time for us to retire to our rooms and for those that flew in today, a chance to recover from the jet lag.

I chose to take advantage of the free wifi in my room (as I am right next to reception) and clean out my email which I have not been able to check often whilst on safari. Then I watched the first half of the football (Spain vs France) before exhaustion overcame me. Alarm set for 6:30 - now time for bed.